[Screen It]

"DIRTY GRANDPA"
(2016) (Robert De Niro, Zac Efron) (R)


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QUICK TAKE:
Comedy: A recently widowed grandfather convinces his grandson to drive him to Florida where the two get caught up in college Spring Break madness.
PLOT:
Dick Kelly (ROBERT De NIRO) is at a crossroads. He just lost his wife after a 15-year battle with cancer, and he is estranged from both his grandson, Jason (ZAC EFRON), and son, David (DERMOT MULRONEY). Jason is a young attorney who works for his dad's law firm, having given up on his dreams of being a photographer. Dick wants to travel to Florida to see an old Army buddy named Stinky (DANNY GLOVER), so he convinces Jason to drive him there as his license was recently suspended.

Jason, though, is only a week away from his wedding to Meredith (JULIANNE HOUGH), who is freaking out as the big day draws closer. On the drive from Atlanta, though, he and his grandfather meet a trio of students from Jason's old college. There is Shadia (ZOEY DEUTCH), who remembers his amazing portraits from Photography class; her promiscuous best friend, Lenore (AUBREY PLAZA), who is sexually attracted to grandpa; and Bradley (JEFFREY BOWYER-CHAPMAN), their mutual gay friend. Jason is surprised to find himself drawn to Shadia, and Dick compels him to alter course and meet up with them in Daytona Beach for Spring Break.

Once there, Jason and Dick get into all sorts of debauchery, as grandpa surprises grandson at all turns with his constant stream of profanity, his sexual cravings, and his sorted past. They also run afoul of two jocks named Cody (JAKE PICKING) and Brah (MICHAEL HUDSON); a couple of easily corruptible cops named Officer Finch (MO COLLINS) and Officer Reiter (HENRY ZEBROWSKI); and make friends with a local drug dealer named Pam (JASON MANTZOUKAS).

OUR TAKE: 0 out of 10
I am not going to mince words, dear readers. I've been getting paid to review films since 1997. In those 18-plus years, "Dirty Grandpa" is one of the worst, most disheartening times I have had in a movie theater. You see, to a certain group of cinema lovers, Robert De Niro is still a legend. He is still an artist who is held up as one of the gold standards of film acting. "The Godfather, Part II," "Taxi Driver," "The Deer Hunter," "Raging Bull," "The Untouchables, "Goodfellas," "Heat." These are landmarks of cinema, part of a certain age demographic's movie DNA. And they all feature landmark performances from Mr. De Niro. And that's not even mentioning his second tier of great films and great performances like "Angel Heart," "Awakenings," "Cape Fear," "Casino," "Wag the Dog," and so forth.

And most of his fans and admirers have never denied him those instances where he's had fun with his tough-guy, larger-than-life De Niro persona. A number of the lighter, more playful projects he has picked over the years have been quite delightful. And he's been delightful in them. Movies like "Midnight Run," "Meet the Parents," and "Analyze This." Sure, he's cashed in a few times with sequels like "Little Fockers" and "Analyze That." But he always came back with a "Silver Linings Playbook" or "The Good Shepherd."

What the %$&# was he thinking appearing in "Dirty Grandpa?!" It is a deeply crass, cringe-inducing, spectacularly unfunny movie that this great actor thoroughly embarrasses himself in. Here's just a few of things that I saw that I cannot un-see that I hope anyone reading this will never see. De Niro naked and masturbating hard to a porno film. De Niro putting the moves on a college girl at least 50 years his junior (to be fair, in real-life, actress Aubrey Plaza is "only" 41 years his junior). De Niro on stage rapping to Ice Cube's "It Was a Good Day." De Niro introducing his grandson as a "retard" who likes to rape. De Niro sleeping naked with his grandson, then waking him up by thrusting his penis in the young man's face. De Niro waxing nostalgic about the anal sex he and his wife would have every five years.

I'm not one of those film journalists who treats movie stars as royalty. They are not my role models. But I've always held De Niro in extremely high esteem. It's De Niro! I couldn't be more disappointed in the man. If he had sought out El Chapo for the sole purpose of giving him shoulder massages and hand-feeding him concord grapes, I couldn't be more disappointed in him. If he had used the press junket for "Joy" to spoil who dies at the end of "The Force Awakens," I couldn't be more disappointed.

And then there are the indignities heaped on some of the other people in this cast. Dermot Mulroney, a fine actor, has two large penises drawn on his face with a magic marker while he's unconscious and then has to perform a couple of long dialogue scenes. Danny Glover plays a terminally ill man who crochets a lewd picture of two people having sex and then asks De Niro to leave his grandson with him for the last month of his life so he can perform repeated acts of oral sex on him until he dies.

And, yes, Zac Efron plays the grandson. I have one question. Why has Zac Efron been taking hours from my life the past few years with some of the absolute worst movies ever made?! "We Are Your Friends?" "That Awkward Moment?" Now this? What the H?! I've done nothing to you, Zac Efron! But you are inflicting real and lasting pain here. Sure, I can somewhat get you back with reviews like this. But I can never get those hours of my life back wasted on watching your dreck. I don't know if I would have done anything meaningful or worthwhile with that lost time. But at least I wouldn't have hurt. Zac Efron's movies depress me. They make me not want to see other movies for days after.

They say attendance in churches is down nationwide. If it's ever proven the Devil is tormenting souls by playing "Dirty Grandpa" on an endless loop in Hell, I guarantee America's pews will be filled for however long there is life on this rock. People will not want to be saved from their sin. They'll want to be saved from this movie.

The plot is this. De Niro plays Dick (ha-ha), a 72-year-old man who has just lost his wife after a 15-year battle with cancer. Her dying wish was that he live out the rest of his life finding some measure of joy. After a life of honorable military service and devotion to an ill spouse, Dick takes that to mean hitting Daytona Beach at Spring Break, smoking, drinking, and planking college girls. He strong-arms his straight-laced grandson, Jason (Efron), to drive him there so he can convince him that a thriving law career, a pretty fiancée, and clean living is a terrible way to be. Of course, the law career is portrayed as evil, soulless, and unscrupulous; the fiancée is a cheating, henpecking Bridezilla; and clean living has nothing on having the freedom to smoke crack cocaine, get fight-the-police-drunk, drive a motorcycle naked, and become a poor, broke photographer (Jason's childhood dream).

Director Dan Mazer and screenwriter John Phillips never met an unfunny scenario they couldn't make un-funnier. So, when Jason wakes up on a beach wearing only a stuffed animal in front of his penis, it's not just funny and humiliating for that reason. They then have to have a four-year-old boy come and pet the stuffed animal and try and pull it. This all happens behind a cleverly placed trash barrel that makes it look to the boy's father several feet away that the child is performing an oral sex act on Jason.

Or when Jason video chats with his mother, father, and bride-to-be, he doesn't just humiliate himself by revealing that he has woken up with a swastika of penises drawn on his forehead from his previous night of debauchery. Oh no. The elderly family rabbi also has to be on that video chat and has to see the Nazi symbol made of male genitalia, too. There are also jokes made about humans ejaculating dogs, a drug dealer using an ice cream truck to sell drugs to elementary and middle-school children, an uncle with throat cancer who has to use a voice box, the list goes on.

And then, of course, "Dirty Grandpa" takes an Apatow-esque touchy-feely turn at the end in which father and son and grandfather and grandson have heart-to-hearts, and they realize that every crass and nasty act that was done before was done out of love. This is as tone-deaf a comedy as I've seen, folks. I found it to be a completely miserable experience. And I give it a score of 0 out of 10. (T. Durgin)




Reviewed January 19, 2016 / Posted January 22, 2016


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